Execution of different motor tasks requires varying levels of conscious pro cessing and attention from the brain. Numbers of tasks like walking, swimming, eating or knitting are executed as a routine with minimum conscious cognitive processing, and often along with other demanding mental tasks.
Multitasking while driving
We continue to perform dual tasks even when the primary activities become more demanding and complex. For instance, car drivers with extensive training and practice attend to the information on the road and also hold the co-passenger in a routine conversation. Expert drivers succeed in routinizing the task of driving such that it needs minimal attention.
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|How is it that people can multi-task? For instance, experienced drivers can drive on a highway while conducting a conversation – because the highway conditions are routine and make driving effortless. (p 29) You can also make small decisions as you drive your car. (p 39) But when road demands attention, the conversation halts. (Kahneman D., pp 29 & 39)|
Mental attention can be divided between two simultaneous tasks. If one of the tasks is routinized, the other can get the extra cognitive attention. The routinized tasks are said to be executed in auto-pilot mode, so that the brain can spare its limited cognitive resources on other pressing matters.
Different tasks require different levels of conscious processing and attention from the brain
Look at the problems which beginners face in learning new skills like driving, typing, eating with a knife and fork or chopsticks! During the learning phase, because the primary tasks need dedicated attention, learners are unable to handle other simultaneous tasks. Needless to say that such routinized operations are only possible with extensive practice, which converts learners into experts.
The case is not very different for beginners learning to sketch. Drawing perspective or even straight lines that vanish at a single point, maintaining scale and proportion all require cognitive attention. Obviously, beginners are overwhelmed by these problems and their attention is diverted completely to these issues. It is difficult to enjoy food if you are eating with chopsticks for the first time! Learning demands that you budget attention to it.
If the action of perspective sketching and its corrections demand direct attention, it will actually divert the mind away from its preoccupation with the design problem solving. Returning to the earlier example of driving, when the road is crowded and the traffic is heavy, the mind must attend to the problems of driving and cannot spare its limited resource for meaningful conversation. Initial learning of sketching needs similar attention. It is obvious that in design, the creative process gets severely affected, if the execution of the sketch demands attention.
By now, the implications of this discussion would be clear to the readers. Anybody evolving an idea while sketching in perspective must grapple with the constraints imposed by the limited cognitive budget. Control and attention that is required while sketching or drawing correct perspective as well as concentrating on deliberate thought that is directing creative development of idea in the mind apparently draws on the same limited budget of efforts. If drawing perspective makes heavy demands on the budget, the designer, particularly the learner, has to juggle between attending to the drawing as well as to keeping his design ideas somehow active in mind. He often tends to switch between the two acts by focusing on one and keeping the other on hold. Interestingly, switching from one task to another is also effortful, especially under time pressure (Kahneman D., p 37)
For the learner, the act of drawing 3D perspective is effortful and requires exercising mental energy. It will be counterproductive, if the sketching has to continue at the cost of intermittent interruption of the thought process. But there is a way around it. As you become skilled in a task, its demand for energy diminishes. Studies of the brain have shown that pattern of activity associated with an action changes as skill increases, with fewer regions of the brain involved. Talent has similar effects. (Kahneman D., p 35) So, the objective of this programme is to convert it into an effortless mental activity, a routine that demands exercising very little attention. It suggests that the process of representation should become quick, effortless, continuous, and routine and demand only a casual attention from the brain. For convenience, we have referred to it as a natural act. How can you make conscious human acts natural and effortless? Will extensive practice help?